Going to see stand-up at the National Theatre is an odd thing indeed, but then Daniel Kitson is really not a stand-up. He is best described as a writer and performer of Proustian one-man plays with the sparsest scenery seen since a Samuel Beckett production.
The only things on stage in It’s Always Right Now, Until It’s Later are him, a chair, a stepladder and tiny lights hanging down from the ceiling at various points. Each light would shine brighter as he introduced it, a moment in time of a person’s life that can seem totally insignificant, but strung together make up our very existence.
It was the tale of two lives lived concurrently, William and Caroline, but he told one from death to birth and the other from birth to death. Their paths crossed somewhere in the middle, but they never knew it. A comedic play, yes, but one that made me cry. Me and many others in the audience, as I stepped outside to see people gathering their thoughts and wiping away tears in the foyer.
My friend @darklonelywater said it was like a novella being read out loud and there is truth in that. Kitson really ought to write a novel. He has a wonderful sense of character, place, time and tiny moments that are plucked from obscurity and elevated to the status of precious. He does rattle through the material, occasionally stumbling and covering with the wit of a stand-up, but you get the feeling it would work every bit as well in written form.
Kitson brings elements of his background in stand-up to enrich a one-man play. The comedic use of call-backs here mixed with the complex time-line allow him to introduce what had seemed like passing jokes, but instead let us see that life develops very rarely in the way we expect it to.
The rich appreciation of language and keen observation of social situations that you find in stand-up here makes you laugh, but also highlights that no moment is meaningless. The whole point of the piece is that a person’s life is a series of seemingly insignificant moments that all contribute to who you were, are and will be.
I’d like to suggest Kitson attempt the unthinkable – he’d be the perfect man to adapt A la recherche du temps perdu for the stage or even film. After all, no dramatist can ever capture the essence of the human experience as accurately as a comedian. Nor is he the only one engaging in this sort of approach, as I consider Richard Herring’s recent work to be one-man plays rather than stand-up too. Maybe we ought to define a whole new genre.
And really, who doesn’t enjoy the word ‘toboggan’?